By Jeff Horseman | | The Press-Enterprise
Published: February 19, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Updated: February 19, 2018 at 7:10 pm

The union representing Riverside County sheriff’s deputies has given at least $554,000 in direct and in-kind contributions to one of three candidates in the 2018 sheriff’s race, campaign finance records show.

Ninety-five percent of the funds raised by sheriff’s Lt. Chad Bianco in 2017 are tied to the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, according to a report on file with the county Registrar of Voters. The union, which represents more than 2,000 deputies, corrections officers, district attorney investigators and other law enforcement personnel, gave him another $300,000 on Feb. 14.

“Lt. Chad Bianco has a distinguished record supervising staff and managing resources in this department while protecting all of Riverside County,” union Vice President Ian Anderson said in a news release announcing the $300,000 donation.

“Bianco has earned our endorsement and has the full support of the county’s 2,300 law enforcement professionals who put their lives at risk patrolling our streets every day. We need real change in leadership to restore integrity, efficiency and accountability to this department. That’s why we are 100 percent supporting Chad Bianco.”

Reached via text message, Sheriff Stan Sniff wrote: “Unfortunately, the (union) leadership has attempted to run the sheriff’s department over the past few years – fighting management on accountability issues such as body-worn cameras and blood tests for deputies involved in shootings – all while facing its own attempted internal coups, internal union election illegitimacy and union “palace intrigue.”

“Regarding (the union)’s financial support, (union) leadership – without a vote of its members – has given $550,000 to Bianco, compared with $14,000 Bianco has raised from other sources,” the sheriff added. “This suggests little public support for a candidate owned ‘lock, stock and barrel’ by the small (union) leadership group and put forth to serve as their ‘puppet.’”

Responding via email, former Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown wrote: “Of course, I am very concerned about any candidate, especially a candidate for sheriff, being bankrolled by one special interest group. A half-million dollars is a lot of money! However, it does show how desperate the men and women of (the union) are for new leadership. I agree with them in that respect.”

“But it’s a dangerous scenario when one entity essentially buys a candidate, no matter who they are,” Brown added. “My financial support is from a wide variety of concerned citizens and organizations that just want to see independent, proven leadership come in and rescue an organization in crisis.”

In an emailed response, Bianco said: “I am honored to have earned the support and endorsement of the sheriffs’ association who represent the dedicated men and women in Riverside County law enforcement. They, along with most of the voters I have met with recently, recognize the urgent need to change the leadership within the sheriff’s department.”

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